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Men’s Swimming: Irish open season at Dennis Stark Relays

Joe Wirth | Friday, October 8, 2010

Notre Dame kicks off its season Friday with the 46th annual Dennis Stark Relays against Oakland University and Valparaiso University.

The Irish will have to contend with the Grizzlies’ strong young swimmers. Oakland sophomores Alex Aceino, Tobias Hansen and Nick Evans each won two events at the Grizzlies’ Black/Gold meet last week.

The Crusaders opened their 2010-11 season on Sunday by losing all three ends of a triangular meet against Saint Louis, Evansville, and IUPUI. Valparaiso senior David Sivak will compete in Friday’s meet after leading the Crusaders with two victories in Sunday’s meet. He had wins in the 50-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly.

The Irish have high expectations this year and senior captain Mike Sullivan says they hope to make a splash on both the Big East and national stages.

“As far as the team goes, we hope to regain the Big East championship title as well as send some swimmers and divers to score at the NCAA Championship meet,” Sullivan said. “I hope to be one of those swimmers, and I know there are a lot of guys in the same boat who will definitely get there by putting in hard work all year long. And it goes without saying that I’d love for our team to rewrite our record board this season in the process.”

As the season approaches, Sullivan thinks the preseason training has helped the team grow closer and has them headed in the right direction.

“Preseason workouts were pretty fun this year. We did a set of captains’ practices that really came from the whole senior class, with a lot of guys contributing sets,” Sullivan said. “We tried to do some stuff that was hard, but also fun so that guys would be excited about starting the season up again. We also did some stuff with our strength coach that would help get us stronger before the season started up.”

Sullivan puts the team’s goals first, but said he does have some individual goals he wants to accomplish before his Irish career ends.

“In terms of individual goals for this season, I just want to get faster and hopefully push my teammates to do the same,” Sullivan said. “With this likely being my last year of swimming, I have to put all of my effort in so that there are no regrets at the end of the year.”

Sullivan also credits Irish coach Tim Welsh for getting the team in the proper mindset to start the season.

“[Coach Welsh] always does a great job of setting a tone at the beginning of the year and reminding us of that tone in order to keep everyone focused,” Sullivan said. “This year, he has given us the theme ‘more than one year’s improvement in one year,’ with the plan that if we can make a bigger stride this year than in years past, we will reach our goals and send guys to score at the NCAA meet. In terms of getting us ready physically, he does a good job of giving us hard workouts early in order to get us back into shape fast. By jumping right into those workouts, we spend less time getting into shape and more time improving, which is the ultimate goal.”

The Irish have no shortage of motivation this year, as last year’s loss to Louisville at the Big East Championships still haunts Notre Dame.

“I honestly expect the whole team to have a great year this year,” Sullivan said. “I think coming off of a tough loss to Louisville at the Big East meet last year really stuck with people, and there’s not a guy on the team who wants to see that happen again. I think we are all extremely motivated and that is going to lead to some special swims for our team. With the senior leadership that we have and the talent we have up and down the roster, this will definitely be a great year for our team.”

The Dennis Stark Relays begin at 5 p.m. at the Rolfs Aquatic Center.